Tag Archive | "Germany"

Angela Merkel and David Cameron

How Germany Surpassed Great Britain … Economically At Least

In the wake of Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a voter referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU, new grassroots groups have sprung up supporting a renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership.[1]  While Britain considers removing itself from the EU entirely, Germany has emerged as a powerful leader in the EU.  Some scholars have gone so far as to say that Germany is “keeping Europe afloat.”[2]  What led to Germany’s current power player status is complicated.  Whether it be Germany’s rapid economic growth or German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personality is anyone’s guess.

Now, as Cyprus repeats the Greek meltdown, it has become clearer that the euro zone has not been able to create a “banking union” in any meaningful sense.[3]  Developing a true banking union is made more difficult by the fact that Germany continues to oppose creating a euro-wide deposit insurance program.[4]

Despite the Greek bailout in 2010, and the follow-up bailout in 2012 (of which Germany was the biggest contributor of funds[5]), the EU has record-high unemployment.[6]  As a result of Germany’s economic influence throughout the EU, it will likely be Merkel who dictates what happens in Cyprus.  While Britain was notably absent from discussions surrounding the creation of an EU banking supervisor, Merkel noted that it was “a big step toward more reliability and confidence in the euro zone.”[7]  This post explores some of the factors that led to Germany’s strong economic position in the EU and what that could mean for Britain in the future.

German Economic Influence

Angela Merkel and David Cameron

And with good reason, too!
(Spectator)

Most people in Germany, even down to the standup comedians, believe that Germany is economically dominant because of their “system of apprenticeships” and commitment to building a society that helps entrepreneurs.[8]   Germany also overhauled the labor market in an effort to hold down costs.[9]  On top of the societal systems, Merkel reminds Germans of Great Britain’s Margaret Thatcher as one who seems to “balance government accounts as though they were a household budget.”[10]  The difference, however, is that Thatcher had the British people’s support for doing so, but Merkel has no democratic mandate.[11]

This system has led to Germany being the only country in the EU with the funds necessary to deal with financial crisis.[12]  The German economic platform has also given Merkel the power to “dictate the terms under which struggling euro zone nations can apply for further credit, eroding the democratic autonomy of the Greek, Italian and Spanish parliaments.”[13]  In 2012, when Merkel approved the second round of bailouts for Greece, she stated: “The risks of turning away from Greece now are incalculable. No one can assess what consequences would arise for the German economy, on Italy, on Spain, the euro zone as a whole and finally for the whole world.”[14]  Despite these admonitions, the tide of approval for Greek bailouts was turning.

Various headlines such as “German money is being thrown away on the bankrupt Greeks” bore out a strong current of German criticism.[15]  Some posit that Germany continues to do provide bailout funds because of their “self-imposed obligation to help build a Europe where the petty nationalisms that had ruined the continent in two world wars could be definitively overcome.”[16]  As stated by Simon Winder, author of Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern: “The tragedy for the Germans is that they viewed the euro as their great, healing gift to the rest of Europe, an act of self-denial in which they cashed in their totemic deutschmark for the continent’s greater good.”[17]

Britain Meanwhile…

Britain continues to extricate itself from the EU and from any sort of indication that they are willing to assist other failing countries.  In the face of calls for Britain to leave the EU altogether and with Cameron seeking re-election, he is unlikely to offer any British assistance that will back British taxpayers into a European Union corner that they do not want to be in.  Pulling away from the EU at this point has left an opening that Germany’s economy has filled.

Where to From Here? Culture v. Economics

The contrast between the economic strength of Germany and the cultural influence of Britain is stark.  While Germany seems devoid of a cultural identity, “Britain is the cultural dynamo of Europe by a million miles.”[18]   What kind of actual power British cultural influence can bring to the EU with a fledgling British economic system remains to be seen.  What is clear, however, is that the world is looking to Germany for economic answers.



[1] Stephen Castle, British Group Backs Renegotiating E.U. Role, The New York Times, April 22, 2013.

[2] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[3] Hugo Dixon, A Union That Exists in Name Only, The New York Times, March 31, 2013.

[4] Id.

[5] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[6] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[7] Raf Casert and Don Melvin, EU Backs Banking Supervisor, Greece Bailout, Yahoo! News, Dec. 13, 2012, available at http://news.yahoo.com/eu-backs-banking-supervisor-greece-bailout-145720588–finance.html.

[8] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[9] David Jolly, Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record 12%, The New York Times, April 2, 2013.

[10] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[11] Id.

[12] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[13] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[14] Louise Armitstead, Germany Approves Greek Bail-out but warns Angela Merkel Against Further Help, The Telegraph, Feb. 27, 2012.

[15] Stuart Jeffries, Is Germany too Powerful for Europe?, The Guardian, March 31, 2013.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, Treana HickeyComments (0)

David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Cameron Courts Germany to Discuss Great Britain’s Future in the EU

This is a follow up post to my prior post: David Cameron Wants Out of the EU: What are the Risks and Rewards?

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, arrived in Berlin last week to engage in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The purpose? Demonstrate “the close relationship between the two center-right leaders and a discussion of Britain’s future with the European Union.”[1]  Earlier this year Cameron announced that if his Conservative Party were to be reelected in 2015, he would either “reduce British entanglement with the EU – or allow his people to vote in a referendum to leave the bloc all together.”[2]

David Cameron and Angela Merkel

Sitting down to discuss their differences.
(Irish Examiner)

In the months following his announcement, Cameron has not let up on his calls for a re-evaluation of Britain’s membership in the EU. Just last week, he stated that “British support for the EU was ‘wafer thin’”[3] and that he would like to see member states given the right to opt of some EU laws.   Cameron’s conclusion that Britain’s placement in the EU has lost much of its utility comes on the heels of Britain’s weak economic data[4] and his claims that the EU has “sometimes overreached itself with directive and interventions and interference.”[5]

According to Cameron, “Europe will be more successful if it has the strength of flexibility rather than the weakness of inflexibility.  I think the best outcome for Britain is our membership of a reformed European Union.”[6] This signals a slight change in Cameron’s phrasing of the EU/Britain relationship. Previously, Cameron seemed determined to get Britain out of the EU altogether; now, however, he has started to focus more on reforming the EU.[7]  It is likely that the backlash from both France and Germany have tempered Cameron’s hardliner approach.

Great Britain and Germany Face Off Over Competing Views of the EU

While Cameron and Merkel are making the weekend into a family affair by bringing along their spouses, the relationship between the two has not always been so cordial.[8]  In 2009, Cameron pulled “his Conservatives out of the centre-right bloc in the European Parliament to which Merkel’s Christian Democrats belong.”[9]  Cameron’s previous visit to Berlin in 2011 came on the heels of a Cameron speech where the central message was “less Europe” and Merkel’s speech, given on the same day, emphasized the need for “more Europe.”[10]  Granted, Britain was attempting to maintain its distance from the euro-crisis, but Merkel scoffed at the idea that Britain should still have political pull in the EU.[11]

In March 2012, Britain and the Czech Republic were the only two Eurozone states that refused to sign a new fiscal treaty. While Cameron was complaining that his ideas were being ignored, Merkel described the treaty as a “great leap” and “a first step towards stability and political union.”[12]

Even more recently, Cameron’s plan “to defuse the Tory civil war over Europe by winning back powers from the EU has been thrown into doubt after Germany said it would prefer to solve the Eurozone’s problems without a new European treaty.”[13] Germany’s opposition to Cameron’s plan adds to the already sharp criticism pointed at Great Britain by France, which has come “out against opening up the EU rulebook again in the timescale envisaged by Cameron.”[14]

At Stake for Both Sides

Cameron’s visit is aimed to reduce the chatter surrounding Britain’s touchy relationship with the EU throughout the Eurozone.  Recall that shortly after Cameron’s referendum announcement, France commented that Britain could not have an “a la carte” attitude towards the EU,[15] and “German officials said Britain could not ‘cherry-pick’ the terms of membership.”[16] While German officials are not encouraged by Cameron’s desire to roll back EU powers, they were not surprised.[17]

If Britain leaves the EU, many argue that “France’s relative influence would increase as would that of the southern ‘Club Med’ nations, which tend to be less committed to free markets and budgetary rigor . . . . If Merkel [and Germany lose] Britain, then her game of politics of options”[18] will cease. The question really becomes what price Germany is willing to pay to keep Britain in the EU due to the fact that Britain is an “important German ally, especially on free trade issues.”[19]

The consensus is that Merkel needs Cameron: whether it be for free trade policies that require approval of all 27 EU member states, or on broad sweeping free trade policies.[20]

Some commentators have hinted that Germany and Britain could come to common ground on the issue of reforming the EU, but the depth of that reformation is likely going to be more limited than any of Cameron’s supporters envision.[21]  Germany is unlikely to budge on allowing Britain to opt out of more policy areas or give up “on the core values of European integration, a much stronger political idea on the Continent than in Britain.”[22] Tobias Etzold, an expert on European integration with the German Institute for International Security Affairs, warns: “It is important that Great Britain understands that possible alternative to full membership in the EU would hurt them more than it would hurt the remaining members.”[23]

Cameron would be wise to remember that just this month Merkel and French president, Francois Hollande, “snubbed a UK exercise to assess the impact of EU laws and regulations on Britain and the rest of Europe.”[24]

Conclusion

The topics that are officially slated for discussion between Cameron and Merkel range from the forthcoming G8 summit to the situation in Syria.  The highlight, however, is that the two leaders are scheduled to talk over “all aspects” of EU reformation.[25]

It is interesting to note that at the same time that Cameron seeks to increase Britain’s independence from the EU, he also is fiercely against Scottish independence.[26]  While Cameron may have hundreds of years of history to bolster his argument that Scottish independence is bad for the United Kingdom, one cannot help but be struck by the juxtaposition.

Treana Hickey is a third year law student at the University of Denver and is a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.


[1] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[2] Andrew Higgins, Europe is Edgy as Cameron Seeks to Loosen Ties, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2013.

[3] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[4] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[5] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[6] Cameron to Press for EU Reform During Berlin Visit, Europe Online Magazine, April 12, 2013, http://en.europeonline-magazine.eu/cameron-longs-for-eu-reform_275521.html.

[7] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[8] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[9] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[10] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[11] Id.

[12] EU summit: All but two leaders sign fiscal treaty, BBC News, March 2, 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17230760.

[13] Toby Helm, Germany and France ‘will block David Cameron’s plan for a new EU treaty’, The Guardian, April 6, 2013.

[14] Id.

[15] France’s Hollande rejects ‘a la carte’ attitude to EU, BBC News, Feb. 5, 2013,  

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21336397.

[16] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[17] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[18] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[19] Stephen Brown, Merkel, Cameron to Bring Families Together in Castle Outside Berlin, Yahoo! News, April 12, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/merkel-cameron-bring-families-together-castle-outside-berlin-143320632.html.

[20] Carsten Volkery, Opposing Visions of Europe: Tensions Ahead of David Cameron’s Berlin Visit, Spiegel Online, Nov. 17, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/opposing-visions-of-europe-tensions-ahead-of-david-cameron-s-berlin-visit-a-798399.html.

[21] Melissa Eddy and Stephen Castle, In Cameron and Merkel Visit, a Chance to Discuss British Role in Europe, The New York Times, April 12, 2013.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Andrew Sparrow, Cameron and Merkel to Discuss EU Reform in Germany, The Guardian, April 12, 2013.

[25] Id.

[26] John F. Burns and Alan Cowell, Cameron Details Arguments Against Scottish Independence, The New York Times, Feb. 16, 2012.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, Treana HickeyComments (0)

News Post: Is Germany Determined to Combat a Growing Neo-Nazism Problem?

National Socialist Underground (Getty)

On January 20, 2012, the German President Christian Wulff remembered the 70th anniversary of the “Wannsee Conference,” in which historians believe Nazi leaders coordinated plans to exterminate European Jews and thus established the official German policy of genocide.

The President reminded the German people not to forget the “unbelievable and unimaginable” history that Germany could not afford to repeat.  He vowed to fight the terror and racial hatred caused by violence perpetrated by far-right neo-Nazi groups. While the President’s promise is commendable, Germany needs to match their words with proactive changes when it comes to tackling the right-wing extremist groups that have been growing in Germany.

Germany’s right-wing extremist movement is founded on the concepts of nationalism and racism. Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has continually tried to become a multinational country, welcoming immigrants from around the world to live peacefully in a new democratic Germany. However, many decades later, the reality depicts a different picture.

The number of politically and racially motivated crimes committed by followers of the right-wing movement in Germany reached the all-time high of 20,000 in 2008. While the number of these crimes has been declining since 2008, 3,044 violent politically motivated crimes were recorded in 2009 and 2,636 such crimes took place in 2010. The German authorities count “hate crimes” as a subcategory of politically motivated offenses, thus the actual number of the hate crimes is likely much higher.

Some experts on the subject think that the German authorities have been trivializing the extent of the right-wing violence in the country. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence service, estimates that there are 25,000 far-right group members, 9,500 of which are prone to violence. These experts believe that the right-wing groups have committed more than 100 murders in Germany since 1990. Despite the persistent trend in the growth of the hate crimes, police have not stepped up efforts to track and investigate these extremist groups. Police and governmental authorities are more concerned with surveillance of Islamist terrorists present in the country, but the overall damage caused by Islamist terror groups is significantly less that that caused by domestic neo-Nazis.

While German authorities have improved their response to hate violence in recent years, many such crimes are not investigated adequately or are prosecuted wrongly as ordinary crimes.  Another problem is that police themselves discourage victims of hate crimes from filing complaints and often scrutinize the victims rather than gather evidence and pursue the perpetrators. In addition, minorities and immigrants are normally reluctant to complain to German police about the hate crimes.

Germany’s inadequate methods of combating the hate crimes have been under close scrutiny following the recent revelations about the German police failures to adequately investigate a dangerous neo-Nazi group called the “National Socialist Underground.” The small Neo-Nazi group brutally killed nine people, eight of whom were Turkish immigrants or of Turkish decent, and a policewoman between 2000 and 2007. The group also bombed an immigrant neighborhood in Cologne in 2004, injuring 22 people, mostly Turkish immigrants.  The information about the existence of the neo-Nazi gang came to light after two of its members were found dead having committed suicide to avoid prosecution while an additional member surrendered to police.

Some German politicians rightfully expressed disappointment in the law enforcement, blaming the authorities for not taking the hate crimes committed by the right-wing extremists seriously.

The criticism of German authorities increased after it became known that German intelligence agencies had information about “National Socialist Underground,” but did not act to stop them. Most troubling is the fact that an employee of a German intelligence agency, who was known for openly expressing his right-wing views, is suspected in being present during the three of the murders committed by “National Socialist Underground.” His precise involvement in the murders is under current investigation.

President Wulff said the recent killing spree was “something that authorities didn’t believe to have been possible in this day and age.” Yet, these racially motivated murders provide ample evidence to the contrary.

 

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, DJILP StaffComments (0)

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